Virtual tour turns building inside out

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Thursday, 27 July 2000

Adelaide University Open Day (August 13) will provide prospective students and the public with the chance to look around the university and discover its many facets. Those who have not been there for a while will see a few changes. One is the new Engineering and Mathematical Science building on the eastern side of the Adelaide campus.

The building, which was completed last year, is part of the extensive redevelopment of the lower level. Designing it to fit such a crowded site had its tricky elements. A large cedar tree of heritage significance needed protection. Brick cladding was required to match the building to others around it. With research and teaching ongoing only 3 metres away, dust, vibration, hazards, air pollution and noise had to be kept to a minimum.

That involved a great deal of planning, complicated by a decision to make the new building, from the outset, the subject of a teaching resource for courses that will take place inside it.

The result is a CD-ROM for student use that reveals every aspect of the building's design, planning and construction. That is no mean feat in a building of 5 levels which incorporates lifts, stairs, wheelchair access, innovative construction methods, and is based on piles pressed 10 metres into the ground.

Within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mr Lindsay Doherty had the idea of recording the construction of the building from start to finish. Every aspect of the building's design was recorded. Professor John Agnew and Associate Professor Graeme Dandy provided sufficient funding to employ two post-graduate students, Glenn Potger and Or Aroonsiri, who between them spent 100 hours taking more than 600 digital photographs of all stages of the building's construction

Glenn Potger then worked with Mr Doherty to organise the content of the CD-ROM and prepare templates for it. 250 more photographs were added and all were then sorted and linked to details of the plans. Their integration was achieved by using the South Australian CAD package, 'QikDraw'.

"I chose QikDraw because it was the only one developed locally, so it could readily be modified to suit our proposals," said Mr Doherty. "Also, it is available at a reasonable price for students."

The company's director, Mr Peter Chan, supported the project by providing the necessary program developments, including a version of QikDraw that can be executed directly from the CD-ROM without any separate installation. This makes the documentation tool extremely versatile and portable.

The result is a CD-ROM with more than 350 separate screens that integrate architectural and structural drawings with photographs to show the building inside out. It enables students to take a virtual tour of the building and examine any aspect of its design and construction.

The CD-ROM supports CAD operations, so that lecturers can present various aspects of it to a class by using a video projector and drawing arrows, adding text and zooming into or highlighting aspects of the display to make their point.

While there is particular value for Adelaide University students in being able to study the building that houses them, the variety, scope and detail of that building make the CD-ROM a valuable teaching resource for engineering students anywhere. It includes the G-Pile method of almost silent installation of piles, a first in Australia. A 'slide show' within the CD-ROM reveals how the G-Pile system works.

"This is a valuable teaching aid which will enable students to gain a better understanding of the relationship between their designs, and what actually takes place in practice,' said Mr Trevor Daniell, Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "It should be of interest to all universities, as well as many in industry," he said.

"I originally planned this as an educational aid,' said Mr Doherty, " but it became clear that it would also be valuable as a project documentation and quality assurance tool for industry, and probably in other areas where a lot of photographic, written and tabular records can be linked to drawings or diagrams," he said.

Because the CD-ROM provides immense detail of the architectural and engineering aspects of a modern, complex building, it is likely to be a useful educational resource for the export market, as these principles apply worldwide.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering plans to make the CD-ROM available to students for $10, and to other universities as a package of 20 copies for $500, with additional packs of 10 copies for $100.


Contact Details

Mr Lindsay Doherty
The University of Adelaide
Mobile: 0409 998 262

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762